Blue Bottle Coffee’s W.C. Morse Cafe becomes a concert hall for a night

Blue Bottle Coffee’s historic W.C. Morse Cafe on Broadway became a casual and intimate concert hall Thursday night as three members of the Oakland East Bay Symphony performed selections from Vivaldi, Debussy and more.

Called “Cup of Classical,” the event was the latest in the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s efforts to bring classical music into the community by performing it in non-traditional venues. The symphony hosted a similar event, called “Bach & Brew,” last May that brought together beer aficionados and music lovers at Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery.

“We wanted to try to bring members of the orchestra into the community and find a way to connect with where people are already at,” said Steven Payne, executive director of the symphony. “We’d love to find new ways for people to find their way to the concert hall, so this is one way for people to be introduced to this type of music and to really get that live classical music experience.”

With about 65 people in attendance, Cup of Classical kicked off with a demonstration on how to make brewed coffee using a Chemex pot, led by Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman, who himself is a former professional classical musician. The symphony members — Alice Lenaghan on flute, Dan Reiter on cello, and Natalie Cox on harp — then moved into several pieces by Antonio Vivaldi and Reverieby Claude Debussy. The program, a mix of classical and contemporary pieces, also included music by Isaac Albeniz, Wil Offermans and Ravi Shankar, and an original, Cello Suite, by Reiter.

“One of the joys of classical music is that the format is much freer than so much of the popular music you hear on the radio,” Payne said. “It allows the composer and the artists who are performing the music to explore a much wider range of emotion. Classical music has so much to say. We’re hoping that, through events like this, we can bring that to people.”

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